ISLAMABAD: The Government of Pakistan, the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with the Pakistan Post Office Department, have announced an emergency cash assistance initiative benefiting the most vulnerable refugee families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan.

The emergency cash is similar to the federal government’s Ehsaas emergency cash programme, where vulnerable families receive Rs12,000 to cover a four-month period. The emergency assistance will help the eligible refugee families to meet their urgent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, says a press release.

The UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan Iain Hall and the Chairman/Director General of Pakistan Post Office Akhlaque Rana signed an agreement for the disbursement of the emergency cash grants.

Minister for SAFRON Sahabzada Mehboob Sultan, Secretary for SAFRON Muhammad Aslam Kamboh and Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Saleem Khan fully supported this initiative.

Over the past weeks, UNHCR and the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, with the collaboration of partners, volunteers and refugee community leaders, have carried out vulnerability assessments to identify the most needy refugee families. Those eligible for the emergency assistance include refugees with disabilities or serious medical conditions, as well as single parents.

Mr Hall said that many thousands of vulnerable refugees lost their only source of income in the current coronavirus outbreak. “UNHCR is very concerned by the growing destitution of refugee families who solely depend on daily wages. We hope that this emergency assistance will help the most vulnerable get through this health pandemic,” said Mr. Hall. He added that UNHCR will initially target 36,000 refugee families, noting that if additional donor funds are secured, the humanitarian support will be expanded to many more needy families.

Mehboob Sultan expressed his gratitude for UNHCR’s partnership in response to the COVID-19 situation, and appealed for strong support from the international community to Pakistan at this unprecedented and extremely challenging time.

“Afghan refugees should not feel left out. They are as important and as dear to us as they were 40 years ago, and Pakistan would do everything it takes within its competency and even beyond,” said Mr Sultan.

Akhlaque Rana said, “Pakistan Post Office Department is committed to delivering this vital emergency cash assistance to refugees.” He expressed his appreciation for this new partnership with UNHCR and his resolve to carry out this task at this urgent time.